Community Voices: Help from Friends and Neighbors by Jorge O.

July 07, 2014
Chicago, Illinois
Community Voices

In Jorge O.’s second piece for our Community Voices series, he tells the story of how his community, Holy Cross Parish in Chicago’s Back of the Yards, rallied around one of their own after a devastating personal tragedy.

Our lives are filled with memories that we cherish and memories that make us do the opposite. We remember successes with celebrations, and we remember misfortunes with sympathy. Edy—a leader in Holy Cross’ parish programs, my former music teacher, and resident of the Back of the Yards neighborhood in Chicago—experienced something different during one of his misfortunes.

On a Sunday evening in May 2010, Edy was at a meeting at Holy Cross. While he was in his meeting, his brother invited a friend over to watch a basketball game. It was a nice Sunday evening until they heard crackling noises and smelled smoke. A fire had started in Edy’s room and quickly spread to the rest of the house. Back at the meeting, Edy was getting frustrated at the constant vibration of his cell phone and decided to answer. His brother told him “La casa se esta quemando,” “the house is burning.”

His brother told him this in tears, and Edy drove back home quickly worrying that perhaps something has happened to his other younger siblings. He got to the house covered in dark smoke and embraced his brother who had just gone through a near-death experience with the flames after attempting to get some personal belongings from his burning room. But surprisingly, this is where Edy’s misfortunes bit by bit began to disappear.

In a matter of moments after embracing his brother, Edy’s friends began to appear to show their support. Many also offered their home to Edy’s family, but the family just stayed in their cars staring at the burned house. Edy could sense his father was scared wondering what to do with his kids who didn’t have any clothes for the next day. “It was a Sunday night,” says Edy. “We had school and work the next day.”

He called a friend that he was certain would help. His friend offered her home and stated that this could be like a vacation for them rather than help. His father told them all to go about their day as if the fire had not happened and to just be as positive as any other Monday. Edy was not just shown sympathy the next day; he got support.

He ran into many friends who expressed joy that he and his family weren’t hurt. By the end of the week, the community had started a fundraiser to raise money for Edy and his family to invest in a new home. The event was held in the home of someone he did not even know. The community got together and didn’t rest until Edy and his family got a new place to live.

“I am so used to helping others,” says Edy. “It was strange that I needed to be helped. Plus I didn’t know this person who hosted the fundraiser. It was just great to see something like that.” Edy and his family also received help from other organizations, but nothing beats getting help from friends and neighbors.

Edy and his family moved to another home with the satisfaction that it was possible thanks to the support of their parish community. This shows that some people go beyond saying, “Oh well that’s too bad, I hope it gets better.” Some people lift their fingers to help their friends. It is a strong unity of people that are stating that they will always stick together.

“The media gives our community a bad reputation,” says Edy, “but they refuse to show this side of it. I hope that we continue to show this unity not only through the bad times, but the good times too.”

This is not the first time something like this has happened in my neighborhood. The Back of the Yards has a reputation for going beyond sympathy to help each other during a crisis. Let us all take this example to go beyond our feelings through the good and the bad. It is a blessing that Edy and his family are alive from their experience. Life is unpredictable, so it is better to face with friends and family united.

Learn more about all of Holy Cross’ many programs and the community and people they serve. If you’d like to join people like Jorge O. and Edy in supporting the Back of the Yards community, visit our secure donation page. 95% of all funds go directly to programs helping build strong, healthy communities.

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